At last week's Moscow talks, Russian and Turkish Defense Ministers Sergei Shoigu and Hulusi Akar agreed to establish a joint command operations center in Syria to plan and carry out joint actions on reducing tensions in the country's north-west.
On March 12, 2019, at the direction of the two countries' military leaders, a meeting of Russian and Turkish officers was held in the village of Aazaz, controlled by the Turkish-loyal units of the Syrian opposition. The discussions primarily focused on creating the center, networking, security and other issues.
For the time being, the Turkish side believes that the main objective is to organize joint and separate patrols along the separation line between the Syrian government troops and opposition units, as well as in the contact zone of Turkish troops and their allies with the Kurdish armed groups.
Speaking at a briefing on March 13, Turkish Defense Ministry spokeswoman Nadida Shibnamaktub voiced the concerns of the Turkish military authorities over the recent increase in artillery and other attacks on various areas of the Afrin enclave from the village of Tell Rifaat controlled by the Kurdish militias. Turkish artillery is forced to return fire.
As agreed with the Russian side, March 13 saw the first patrolling by Turkish special forces units of the inner ring in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Within the next few days, the Russian military police will begin similar actions all round the outer ring. Both patrol groups are tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Sochi agreements and preventing the warring parties from going beyond the lines of demarcation.
At the Aazaz meeting, the Russian military promised their Turkish counterparts to speed up the starting date for the joint military patrols of the line between the Turkish troops and Kurdish forces along the route Aazaz-Aleppo-Tell Rifaat-the Mang military airfield with a total length of 20 kilometers. As previously agreed, traffic safety will be ensured by combat helicopters of both countries. Aviation may act on-call.
The Turkish Defense Ministry does not conceal its satisfaction with the agreements reached and is convinced that Russia's practical participation in patrolling difficult areas along the separation lines will massively ease tension in the region. All the warring parties are familiar with its unbiased attitude and adherence to principles.
It should be noted that historically, the Russian-Turkish relations were positive in their nature only after the Turks became convinced of Russian soldiers' strength and Ankara secured assistance in achieving its national interests. So was it under Admiral Ushakov, at the dawn of Soviet Russia and later. The Turks are becoming increasingly convinced that it is more profitable to be friends with present-day Russia on an equal and exclusively discretionary basis. However, Moscow needs to "keep its eyes open", with due regard to the mentality of the Turkish leaders and the country's NATO membership. So and in no other way!